Like procrastibaking, but you shouldn’t eat the results.
To start, I don’t really believe in procrastination. But I do think that it’s part of the work process to have periods of passive thinking. When you have a job (and I would consider school a job) that requires a lot of thinking/writing/processing, it gets exhausting really quickly. You may find yourself staring blankly at a screen, struggling to know what to say or do next. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and describe what you are doing – this is where techniques like reverse outlining are really useful.* But sometimes mental blocks or feelings of exhaustion can’t be solved by actively engaging with your work. Sometimes you have to put it down and do something else. And since I’m a fan of active engagement as a form of rest, I often (when I’m doing what’s good for me) turn to calm activities that are still active.
I find that video games can be a great active rest, and I feel especially justified in this after listening to the Ologies podcast episode on Ludology (gaming). But while I’ve been away on research, I’ve had a lot of time to fill. And after playing through Thronebreaker, I kind of needed something a little less immersive for a while. But just watching all of Steven Universe, ContraPoints, and a historical sewing series on youtube was a tad passive for me. So I got back into crafts to have something to do with my hands while my brain turned to mush.
Before I left I learned to crochet so I could make myself a snazzy new winter hat, since my old one keeps falling off my head. I wanted a very specific style that would crush down only part of my hair but stay on snugly, because you don’t know hat hair until you’ve had curly hat hair. And about half way through that project, I had the totally normal thought of I’d really like to crochet a tablecloth. I love the look of vintage lace tablecloths and hadn’t been able to find one to register for when I got married, so I spent the next two weeks making one. And then I liked doing that enough (and had made enough errors) that I decided to make another one for my mother-in-law. And then somewhere in the middle I did a painting for the first time in about 3 years, and an ink drawing for the first time in maybe 2 years.
These projects offered nice, simple problems to solve. They gave me methodical actions to complete, but with enough progress attached to them that they didn’t feel endless. And really my need to craft is ultimately a form of Scuppersing. But where I originally defined Scuppersing as a need to organize things, it’s also an urge to make something just right – a feeling that if I find the right piece I can use it to fill the hole that’s creating my anxiety. That’s always been a big part of doing art for me. Art used to be like a sickness – I had an idea and if I didn’t get it out in time or it wasn’t right, I would fall apart. And I couldn’t sell my original drawings and paintings because I needed to have them with me – they were pieces of me that I couldn’t give away. Now I’ll often obsess over creating (or finding) a particular piece of clothing or object for my house that serves a practical function but also fits the exact aesthetic that will put me in the mindset I need to be in. I try to curb this as much as I can, because just feeding this urge isn’t useful in the long run. But having short goals is helpful for focusing and directing my energy, and gives me passive time to figure out what I want to say about what I’m working on.
Procraftinating has helped me pass the time while I’ve been alone, which may be why I don’t do much art anymore – I used to paint and draw mostly because I was lonely. At around 16 years old, you could usually find me holed up in my room singing along to some combination of metal and opera while painting fairies between the hours of 4pm and 5am. Friday and Saturday nights, my friend N and I would cue up a Disney movie and sew some medieval clothing. But apart from a single art class I took in college to help me work through some interpersonal trauma, I’ve mostly stopped doing art because I don’t really feel passive or lonely anymore. When I have a problem, I try to work it out more directly now. But while I’m away on research, I do feel lonely – my family is thousands of miles away and our schedules only overlap for a few hours a day.
Procraftinating helps me throw myself into my research without losing myself. In the last two weeks, I’ve written a full 30-page draft of a dissertation chapter based on the work I’ve been doing on this trip (minus citations, because I’m a masochist and I write all my content before adding my references). It’s a sort of “when it rains it pours” approach to work, or maybe even “a high tide raises all boats” (what is it with productivity and water?) – because I’m doing one thing I have the focus to do another two things. I know the flood will stop soon – I can’t keep up this level of output for too long, because I start to get tired and need to do something else (or nothing) for a while. But while it lasts, procraftinating is really helping me pull through.
*Reverse outlining is a process of reading something you’ve written and describing what each paragraph/section is about, especially in terms of what function it serves in the larger piece of writing. This results in an outline. If the outline makes sense on its own, then you know that you’re on the right track. But if there are gaps or logical leaps, or something just doesn’t fit, the outline helps you identify what needs to be added or removed.